Speak to any parent of tween or teen boys and mention the game Fortnite and you can pretty much guarantee that there will be a collective groan of recognition and probably a few of frustration.
All the kids are playing Fortnite. Millions of them around the world. Forget FIFA, that was so last year.
Fortnite or, to give it it’s full name, Fortnite Battle Royale has taken gamers by storm. Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC and now an app for mobiles, it is everywhere. Free to download this survival game has gained mass players thanks to thrilling excitement of trying to be the last man standing accompanied by great graphics and fun quirks. Check YouTube and there are endless videos of people playing Fortnite or talking about it.
If you haven’t played or watched someone play Fortnite, it is essential a shooting game but based on the Hunger Games. 100 players are dropped onto an island where they then have to scramble to find weapons hidden around the island. The task at hand then is, of course, to shoot and kill all of the other players. The last player left ‘alive’ at the end of each round it the ultimate winner. You can play individually or in groups.
With it being so popular, I decided to find out more about Fortnite and find out the pros and cons of playing the game. I may be clutching at straws trying to find the positives but it is good to take an interest in the kids’ games and find out a bit more about what they are doing and the results were quite interesting.
So what are the positives?
There is no blood
As a parent, I’m going to admit that I am not the biggest fan of survival type games that involve guns and shooting. I finally gave in last year to my teenage son and allowed Call of Duty in the house and regretted it many times after when I would pass through and see the level of violence and gore in the Campaign mode. Having said that, I could quickly see that Fortnite was different. It is a game based on killing and so there is a level of violence but it is essentially a cartoon with no blood, no gore and it isn’t as graphic and realistic as other games of this type.
There is some thinking involved
There is some thinking that has to happen while it is being played. The objective is, of course, to stay alive but in order to do that, the players need to think, plan ahead, create, build and strategise. Players need to find weapons to kill other players, shields to defend themselves and also other materials and resources to help in the game.
Apart from avoiding other players and being killed, there is a map on the screen showing a circle, that is the safe area out of the storm. As the game progresses, the storm starts to close in, if you get caught in the storm, it damages your character’s health which is not good. So forward planning is needed as well as navigating a map to find the best route to success.
There is also the option to build, you can build towers to see other opponents and get a vantage point and bridges to help you get away from or nearer to other players.
There are dance moves
Yes, I did say dance moves. You have heard of the Floss, right? Sadly, it isn’t a teenage obsession with looking after their teeth (I wish) but it is a dance move and one of many that your character on Fortnite might perform either to taunt an opponent or to celebrate a victory. Like Fortnite, The Floss has become hugely popular, especially with younger fans of the game, so something that also gets kids moving has to a good thing, doesn’t it?
There is added humour
As I have already mentioned, Fortnite is a cartoon and my son said that sometimes “it can be really silly”. There is music and the dance moves but there are also costumes or skins to give them their technical name. All of this adds to the game’s appeal and makes it all more fun.
It is sociable
Like many parents, I have a love-hate relationship with the Xbox and Xbox Live. When my sons are screaming into the headset, I would love to shove it into the dustbin, never to be seen again. But, I do think that there is a social aspect to gaming with the headsets that is quite positive. They do get quite vocal sometimes (understatement alert!) but most of the time, they are chatting either about the game or other things, laughing, joking and I would rather this than just being engrossed in a game on their own. Because all of their friends are also playing Fortnite, there is always a group of people to play with or alongside and with that comes the chat and the laughter (and the occasional rant).
The other sociable aspect of the game itself is that playing as part of a duo or squad means that they are having to communicate, discussing strategies and collaborating, working as a team. All good skills to work on in my humble opinion.
It is constantly updated
Fortnite is updated weekly with new items added and new content which keeps players interested. There are also seasons. As you would expect, each season brings changes, such as new themes for the cosmetics and new weekly challenges. A season lasts for a couple of months.
It’s free to download
It is completely free to download Fortnite which is refreshing when you have spent oodles of pounds on the latest game at Christmas. There are in-game purchases though, so it can be free forever but I suspect there will come a time when purchases will become “essential” (their words, not mine).
Ok so there are positives, but what about the negatives …
There do have to be some don’t there. It is, after all, a video game and there are some warnings too.
Make sure they aren’t spending your bucks on V-Bucks
As I said, one of the advantages is that you don’t have to spend a single penny of your hard-earned money on this game but, and this is a big BUT, if you have a credit card or Paypal account linked up to the console, it is very easy for players to buy V-Bucks, the Fortnite currency without having to ask. I have spoken to a few parents who have experienced this first hand, a couple of them said that their sons didn’t realise that they were spending real money and others whose kids knew exactly what they were doing and hoped their parents didn’t notice.
V-Bucks or Battle Passes can be purchased within the game and these enable players to buy skins (the technical name for the costumes), gliders, harvesting tools and emotes which enable your character to dance. Every season of Fortnite you can buy a Battle Pass for about £8 which lasts the whole season. The Pass gives you 100 tiers which give you additional challenges and the chance to get more cosmetics.
According to my son, the Battle Passes don’t enhance a player’s ability to win the game and you can still play and win without spending any extra money. In the words of my son, “nothing you can buy gives you a competitive advantage, it simply makes you look cool and makes it more fun.”
It is addictive
If you search the internet, there are lots of reports of parents who are concerned about the addictive effects of Fortnite and claim that the game has caused problems such as depression and mood swings. I can’t comment on that as I haven’t had that experience myself but with all console games, you have to keep a close eye on the effect it is having on your child and limit the time spent on the game each day.
But Fortnite is most definitely addictive. Kids enjoy playing it and if most of their friends are also playing, they want to be there playing too.
Each game of Fortnite lasts around 20 minutes, so if you ask your child to come off, there will always be the customary response of “when I have finished this game’. Of course, that can be so frustrating, especially if they have just started a game and you are waiting around. They are invested in this game and so quitting and losing is hard for them, especially if they are playing as part of a team and they will let down other players. The important thing is to make sure you set limits and make sure that there is a balance between console time and getting outside, going out with friends.
With so many people playing this worldwide, most kids will hook up with their mates to play, but you can play with complete strangers. Most of the platforms have both a live chat and text chat option which needs to be monitored if your kids are quite young as this can expose them not only to hearing a whole lot of swearing but also being talked to by random strangers. It is good to check in regularly and see who they are playing with and chatting too and if you are worried, there is the option to turn the voice chat off within the game settings.
So that is Fortnite Battle Royale in a nutshell. I am sure that this time next year, there may well be some other game that everyone is obsessed with, but if my kids are anything to go by, Fortnite isn’t going anywhere soon. Having weighed up the pros and cons, I have to admit that Fortnite doesn’t worry me too much. The boys love it, there is mostly laughter and ‘banter’ with their mates as they play and now I have got to know about the lengths of games, I time my “time to come off” moments to perfection.
Let me know what your experience is of Fortnite, do you love it or hate it?